Over the years, my thoughts on Disneyland have varied:
Age 5: Weeeee!
Age 8: The touchstone of fun. For example, if you had to make a case for why a particular adult was worth a child’s time, you might explain, “Well, he took me to Disneyland.”
Age 13: Wished I could go with a boy. Going with my friend Cara’s older brother and his friends was the next best thing. Maybe even better because, who was I kidding, I’d be a nervous wreck on a real date, and that would run Disneyland.
Age 18: Still wishing I could go with a boy. But again, not really. Hungry for scandalous Disney trivia involving people getting beheaded on rides or subliminal penises painted into Fantasyland murals.
Age 23: Disneyland is an oppressive corporate machine that squelches free expression to create a sanitized version of small-town public space that preys on people’s nostalgia for the very type of life that such mega-corporations have decimated.
At age 32, when AK’s sister Lori suggested going there for her birthday, I wasn’t sure what I’d think. But I quickly discovered that—after several exhausting, busy weeks full of way too much expression and decision-making—I was more than happy to surrender to the Disney machine. Few things sounded better than floating down a river on a log firmly anchored to a track. For the same reasons, I suppose, that you always hear about high-powered business guys wanting to get tied up by dominatrices, a lack of freedom sounded like the greatest freedom of all.
I remembered my parents (both SoCal natives who knew that land when it was still orange groves) remarking on how clean and pristine Disneyland was, how no detail was left un-theme-atized. And it’s true that Disneyland has dutifully put Jiminy Cricket’s face on all its recycling bins—who better than our conscience to remind us to reduce, recycle and reuse?
But I imagine that some of the shininess that was impressive in the 1950s and ‘60s has been diluted—by the mere fact that even your average suburban mall has taken a cue from Disney and realized that gleaming surfaces and strategic branding will get people to buy just about anything. So while the Disney dream machine has exploded into most of the developed world, Disneyland itself has been quietly polishing its now-55-year-old surfaces. There’s something quaint about it. Almost a little…shabby.
These were some of the thoughts that meandered through my head as we waited in line for rides and cruised along in the Jungle Boat and marveled at the brilliant engineering of the rental lockers. But my main thought was, Weeeee!
I've recently read three books (Zorro, A Million Nightingales and A High Wind in Jamaica) that take place in the Caribbean and/or New Orleans during pirate times, so I quietly and embarrassingly geeked on this ride, which is as cool and eerie as ever.
There was no shortage of childlike wonderment from the Sisters Ybarra either.
AK has never met a crazy hat that she didn't immediately run to and pose for a picture in.
We were, but we chomped our little beaver teeth down on snacks we brought from home. We were all about doing Disneyland on the cheap.
Which is why we didn't actually buy the $14.95 Splash Mountain photo but instead just took a picture of it. Soggy underwear: priceless.
I kept trying to figure out what country various rides were trying to approximate. I decided that the Jungle Boat was a composite country best described as Camboduganda, and Indiana Jones was Thairu.
Poor Tomorrowland. Who knew that the future would be all about tiny things on screens instead of space travel? An attraction called Innoventions features a "house of the future," which is one part house of the present, one part ABC TV marketing device, plus a bunch of screens. Here's Lori in the "office," where the stapler was glued to the desk, and she couldn't get most of the screens to do anything. "Figures," she said. "I'm the president of this company, but I can't even figure out how my calendar works. My employees are trying to keep me from messing things up."
We spent a ridiculous amount of time (yet zero dollars) in the Mad Hatter's hat store. I'm very serious in this picture. It's ironic. You know, because my hat says "Goofy."
The Big Cheese and Princess Birthday Girl.
Captain Lori Sparrow.
Nothing like an old-fashioned carousel.
It's A Small World is more specific in its national allusions, yet no less imaginative. See, you know this is Scotland because it has 1) plaid and 2) goats.
I'm not sure which African country the flowered giraffe is native to, but I want to visit it.